Twenty-three years ago I traveled to Kampala, Uganda, to speak at some schools about our camp and to interview some potential summer staff. While there I had a day or two free, and after speaking to some folks at the church that was sponsoring our visit, I was encouraged to visit a small village in the bush—-about an hour drive from Kampala.
I traveled to the village and met two young boys who had just lost their father to “sleeping sickness” and their mother to aids. Tragically, the older of the two little boys had found his father, in the brush, a few days after he succumbed to the disease. The boys were sad, worried, hungry and unsure about their future, etc. They were orphans in a nation with many, many orphans
I asked the leader of the village for permission to take these children back to Kampala with me for a couple of days to give them some hope. I was the first white man they had met, and they were hesitant, but the leaders talked the boys into coming with me. Honestly, I did not know then why I made this offer.
To make a long story short, I reserved the boys a room at the Sheraton Hotel, where I was staying, bought them some clothes, let them go swimming in the pool at the hotel, feed them a few meals, and then said good-bye to them and headed back to Kenya the following day.
Their time with me represented their first time in an elevator, the first time in a hotel, the first time in any body of water (the pool) and the first time to be around a “musunngo”, i.e. a white person. I never heard from these little boys again, and some folks chided me, over the years, about what I did in that it was actually a bit self-serving and heartless. The boys would probably never go into a pool again, they now knew just how poor they were, and now they realized how hopeless their situation was. Of course, that was not my intention—-I merely wanted to extend kindness, some relief from the dust, heat and dry air, and give them some reprieve from the sad home they came from. I was hoping to offer them some joy and tell them, in effect, “You have value—you matter.”
Anyway, 23 years later the eldest child called me today——23 years later! He is now living in Houston, Texas, with his wife and two sons. They were able to apply for and receive a green card and moved here. But what broke my heart was to hear that it was my visit to him, 23 years ago, that served as the single event that gave him and his brother hope; they received a vision from God of their worth and purpose—it changed their lives. Two little boys were esteemed by an eccentric white man in Uganda as having purpose, worth and a future.
I cannot save the world—-but I am able to make a difference if I ignore the naysayers that say that planting seeds is “unkind”, etc. These little boys mattered to me, 23 years ago, and were ignored by many others. No, I am not the hero here and don’t claim or want to be the hero. The hero is the Holy Spirit. He spoke, and on that occasion, I listened.
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